Last Friday four Defend our NHS Campaigners from York went over to Dunnington to present Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer and was on the influential Public Bills Committee charged with amending the Health and Social Care Bill, with our petition and the 200,000+ signature petition run by 38 Degrees. To our surprise, when we arrived there was a crowd of people outside his surgery from 38 degrees and there to support us!
Having come up with an agenda that expressed our most important concerns, we began with the failure of the government to publish the satisfaction polls for the NHS. The poll demonstrates record satisfaction with the NHS and undermines the mandate for the reforms. Julian Sturdy agreed that if he had a request in writing from his constituents (which included everyone in the room bar one) then he would raise this in the House. A very important constituent attended the meeting who turned out to be member of the House of Lords, the Right Honorable Professor The Baroness Afshar. She asked some very difficult questions and it was an honour to have such high-profile supporters at the hand-in.
The main concern Julian had was the chaos that may ensue during the handover period of the new reforms and he emphasised the need for strategic bodies to ensure that this was dealt with properly. He really had doubts over whether this had been sufficiently thought-through. If we return to have further discussions with him this potential disruption to services is the point of real common ground.
Julian did not feel that services would be downgraded or closed due to the reforms nor that it would lead to privatisation or inequality between areas. He argued that the reforms would ultimately increase the quality of the NHS and were necessary.
Towards the end, the discussion became more expressive of the anger that people held about these reforms. Particular points that were raised were that the introduction of GPs consortia had been ill thought-through; not taking into account the time, effort and training that would be necessary for GPs to manage their own budgets. People were concerned that the changes may result in the cherry-picking of services from service providers, lack of accountability and inequality between areas.
We handed Julian Sturdy the Defend Our NHS York petition with around 1,800 signatures on it and the rather heavy 38 Degrees petition. Meanwhile this week has seen some important progress made with Cameron and Lansley having to open the debate wider to gain more acceptance of the reforms and the 3 month pause on the bill. These are positive signs that if we keep lobbying MPs, signing petitions, expressing our concerns and anger over the current proposals, the momentum we have will create changes within the Health and Social Care Bill.